State of the Union: Obama's ambitious second-term agenda

Cal Jillson, political science professor at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences talks about the landscape for Obama's second term goals.

By Linda Feldmann

What are the prospects for President Obama’s top goals? There are the discrete items – measures on guns, immigration, climate change, health care – while high unemployment and stagnant economic growth still hang over everything. At the heart of Mr. Obama's agenda remains his core campaign commitment to the middle class, a theme that ran through his second inaugural and will surely carry into the State of the Union message on Tuesday.

Perhaps the biggest question ahead of the State of the Union message is whether Obama will offer new details on deficit reduction, particularly in Medicare and Social Security. If Republicans want to tie the president up in knots, they have the rope: looming deadlines for deep spending cuts known as "the sequester;" the expiration of the latest temporary budget extension, which could force a government shutdown; and the next debt ceiling.

But Obama is expected to hang tough.

"I think he's confident that the discussion can take place on his terms, with the majority House Republicans still exposed to the blame if something isn't done," says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas....